Michael J. Fox: You can’t wait for things to be great and then be grateful


Michael J. Fox is featured in the latest AARP newsletter. I always find it funny when these young guys give an interview for AARP but then they said he’s 60! No he’s not, he’s Alex P. Keaton, perpetually 17. The interview is typical Michael. He’s incurably optimistic, but in an approachable way, not a Pollyanna way. As always, he discusses his Parkinson’s with such honesty, it makes it less scary, even though it’s clearly progressing. As the interviewer states in the beginning, it’s obvious that he has the same wit he always has. Michael acknowledges that there is darkness in life and bad days. He’s not suggesting we brush over that. He promotes acknowledging what’s good and appreciating life.

On Parkinson’s in his life: It’s hard to explain to people how lucky I am, because I also have Parkinson’s. Some days are a struggle. Some days are more difficult than others. But the disease is this thing that’s attached to my life — it isn’t the driver. And because I have assets, I have access to things others don’t. I wouldn’t begin to compare my experience to that of a working guy who gets Parkinson’s and has to quit his job and find a new way to live. So, I’m really lucky.

On gratitude: I started to notice things I was grateful for and the way other people would respond to difficulty with gratitude. I concluded that gratitude makes optimism sustainable.

And if you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for, keep looking. Because you don’t just receive optimism. You can’t wait for things to be great and then be grateful for that. You’ve got to behave in a way that promotes that.

Advice for living with Parkinson’s: Have an active life and do not let yourself get isolated and marginalized. You can live with it. People sometimes say that a relative or a parent or a friend died of Parkinson’s. You don’t die of  Parkinson’s. You die with Parkinson’s, because once you have it, you have it for life — until we can remedy that, and we’re working hard at it. So, to live with it, you need to exercise and be in shape and to eat well. If you can’t drive, find a way to get around. Maintain friendships. Don’t say, “Oh, I don’t have anything to say to Bob.” Bob might have something to say to you. Just make the call.

[From AARP]

Michael talked a lot about his career in the interview. It was fun to relive all those roles with him. He has such a healthy perspective about what his work means to others and to him, including once it changed with his disease. I really appreciate his comments on gratitude. I don’t know that I am always as good about being grateful as I should. I love the concept that “gratitude makes optimism sustainable.” I think I’m pretty good about finding things to be grateful for, but I’m not vocal enough about my gratitude. I think that’s what I need to promote. That’s hard for me because I keep all my emotions close to the vest, but I need to be more open about that. I also felt Michael’s advice for living with Parkinson’s was generally good life advice. After the past two years of being isolated, I’m trying very hard to reach out more. Not just to send the text or place the call, but to say something of value to those I love. A lot happened. I forget that people who love us want to know.

Something else Michael discussed in the interview was how technology was failing him and others with physical challenges. He specified the voice technology. The tremors associated with Parkinson’s make texting and typing impossible sometimes, so he relies on voice to text. But due to his voice quirks also associated with Parkinson’s, the texts will read wildly different from his comments and it’s frustrating, especially because he has no way of correcting it. Again, these are things I never would have thought of but it’s critical for quality of life for those who have Parkinson’s. And with his platform, he can amplify that need. Michael’s done so much for those around him. I hope he knows how grateful we are for him.

Photo credit: Instagram and InStar

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18 Responses to “Michael J. Fox: You can’t wait for things to be great and then be grateful”

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  1. damejudi says:

    1) Been a fan of Michael J. Fox since Family Ties.
    2) My dad, who has advanced Parkinson’s, was diagnosed yesterday with pneumonia for the second time in under a month-so this post is just what I need this morning.
    3) Grateful for Celebitchy-the posts are always well-written, and the comments are smart, snarky, and often just plain spit-take funny.

  2. Genevieve says:

    I’m grateful that Michael J. Fox isn’t turning out to have a horrible side that ruins all my memories of him.

    And side note: Is Michael Pollan an in-law?? I might have to actually buy that cookbook.

    • Ocho says:

      I Googed it. Michael Pollan and Tracy Pollan are siblings.

    • liz says:

      He is really a lovely person. When my Kiddo was little, our walk to school in the mornings occasionally coincided with MJF’s walking his dog. Kiddo loved (still loves) dogs and would ask to pet almost any dog we saw on the way to school (yes, it was a way to procrastinate and yes, I built an extra 15 minutes into the walk to allow for it). Kiddo always asked to pet MJF’s dog and had no idea who “Mike” was, other than Gus’s owner. They would chat about dogs, math homework, favorite books . . . all while Kiddo pet this mastiff-mix that weighed more than she did. Kiddo is about the same age as MJF’s youngest child, so they were easy conversations for him. He knew I recognized him; he also knew that I never told Kiddo that Gus’s owner was a very famous actor. He just saw a kid who loved dogs and he was kind when he didn’t have to be.

  3. Brooke says:

    I love this! This time last year I was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of leukemia that is usually found in adults over the age of 60. I was 34. I went in to check on headaches that I thought were anxiety related and left with an incurable, chronic blood cancer. My life was turned upside down. I thank God everyday though that I had the sense to know that my life was never going to be the same and I had a choice to make. I can live scared or I can live with hope and be grateful for every day that I have.

    Your life and the world around you changes when you choose to be grateful. There are rough days, not so much cancer related but I am human and have bad days. I see them for what are though and move on. I try to find things everyday that I am thankful for and I focus on that. A big thing is that I tell people I am thankful for their lives and the impact they have on mine.

    Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of bad in this world. There are so many things that need to change. We have to see the good too and I promise there is so much good still in this world! Sometimes it’s in the smallest of details but it’s there.

    • Jules says:

      Oh wow, wishing you all the best! Sounds like you have a great outlook.

    • Oh, Brooke, I am so sorry you are dealing with that and I concur with everything you say. I have incurable constant pain from endometriosis and have had for the last three years (And in some form my whole life-Great getting diagnosed in your 50’s!) and I’ve been mulling writing a book called “The Wisdom of Sickness” where I interview people like MJF and you, because it’s so true that you can learn so much about yourself, your priorities and the world. I have always been a grateful person but I am now a GRATEFUL PERSON. I am so happy for all the birds at the bird feeders every morning, for my lovely supportive husband, for just sunshine and music and simple simple things. Of course, I’m SO grateful for the resources I have, but it goes so much deeper than that. I’ve discovered I love living more than I thought. I swear, in a weird way it’s cured my depression because depression cannot compete with gratitude. And I have such gratitude just for the experience of living. It sounds like pollyanna and toxic positivity but it’s not. I’ve learned to forgive myself, and in turn forgive others. After all, we are all just frail bones and leather yearning to be happy.

      • Brooke says:

        I completely agree! My biggest thing is I wish I could give people the peace that I have. Since I was a young I have struggled with anxiety. I’m not saying that it’s completely gone because I still have the stray anxious thought but all of the worries that used to overwhelm me are gone. I think you realize just how ridiculous some things are in light of what you’re going through. I just let it go and try to focus on the good instead.

        I will say I am far more emotional than I used to be. I have cried far more tears of joy though than I have fear or sadness. It sounds so cliche but I feel like I have been given this second chance at life and I appreciate it so much more!

  4. Jules says:

    He’s right. And in a world of celebs constantly saying and doing stupid stuff and then playing the victim all over social media, this really stands out.

  5. olliesmom says:

    He’ll always have that boy next door charm. Loved him then and still love him now. He’s the real deal good guy.

  6. Watcher says:

    This was the article I needed to read today. His perspective is a real wake-up call.

  7. Monica says:

    Amidst a horde of giant adult babies running around banging their rattles and treating each other like crap, it’s good to encounter some real depth from a celebrity. I wish him many more years of health and happiness.

  8. Alarmjaguar says:

    Such a lovely and uplifting read. And so much wisdom. This one stuck me: Don’t say, “Oh, I don’t have anything to say to Bob.” Bob might have something to say to you. Just make the call.